My friend Andrew was examining some old maps and a body of water near the castle was labelled as "boating pond". We explored the area on foot and everything pointed to this being a man-made feature, and one clearly associated with the castle. There was a boat house, and even an old dedicated driveway running down from the castle to the pond, still there but overgrown and now forming part of a field. I had just never noticed it before. Of course, things are often only obvious with hindsight, and indeed since the discovery other sources have corroborated that this body of water is genuinely the castle's original boating pond.
The pond is visible from the castle and I had thought nothing of this, but the reverse angle tells the full story. This fantastic panorama, taken by my friend Alistair, shows the castle intentionally framed by the pond's designed landscape. And just as the castle was designed to be seen from the pond; the pond was designed to be seen from the castle.
|view of Balintore Castle from its lost boating pond|
The pond is currently half its original size. There are some breaches in the stone-lined banks that are reducing its size. However, not much work would be required to bring it back: it could be once again a brilliant recreational facility for boating and fishing.
Whilst touring the pond, Andrew and I spotted some large concrete sluice gates sitting high and dry. They seemed to be rather too large and rather too late in period for the pond, but we didn't really think anything of it.
Several months later the last piece in the jig-saw puzzle emerged with a tale from Andrew's father. Before 1957, the whole bottom of the glen in this area had been been dammed to form the top-up reservoir for Lintrathen Loch that supplies Dundee with its drinking water. This explains the large sluice gates - the original boating pond had been submerged under the top-up reservoir, presumably for decades.
In 1957 there was a tremendous storm, the rain fell so heavily that the rush of water off the surrounding mountains totally washed out the top-up reservoir and presumably this natural disaster also perpetrated the current damage to the pond's infrastructure.
Instead of repairing the reservoir, a newer and much larger one was created at Backwater nearby. The project starting in 1964 and the reservoir was opened in 1969.
The moral of this story is how the layout of the landscapes around us can look permanent, but that they can have gone through vast changes even in relatively recent decades. If we look for the clues in old maps; listen to the stories of those who live in the area but above all stay alert to clues on the ground, then history will tantalisingly peel off her layers.